'Orphan Black,' 'Community' and more cult faves to catch up on before their season premieres

Tatiana Maslany stars on BBC America's new series

Tatiana Maslany stars on BBC America's new series "Orphan Black." (Credit: MCT)

So you keep hearing about shows that have critics raving and cult fans flocking. But you haven't been able to sit down and sample what inspires the superlatives.

Now's your chance. The networks' new fall-season shows don't start arriving until Monday (or accelerating until a week later). That makes this weekend the perfect time to dive into these delights.

Torchwood (BBC America, starting Friday night at 11) This is one seriously twisted ride -- and a seriously smart one. Torchwood is the name of a top-secret crew dedicated to saving the planet from random galactic threats. Each of their four adult TV seasons is very different, made clear when three pop up over 24 hours, starting tonight with overnight's largely stand-alone episodes of Season 2 (11 p.m.-noon). Get to know hunky omnisexual Captain Jack (John Barrowman), funky fighter Gwen (Eve Myles) and their quirky colleagues.


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The most compelling entry unreels Saturday. Children of Earth (noon-5 p.m.) is the Season 3 miniseries chiller in which an alien force seizes control of the globe's tots, forcing parents/governments to make horrific choices to save mankind. The doings, which could have gone kooky, are instead rivetingly real, rocketing this "Doctor Who" spinoff from playful adventure into the realm of metaphysics and more. "Children of Earth" also spotlights its progenitor's next Doctor, Peter Capaldi, guesting as a government official dealing firsthand with the horror.

After that, BBC America starts basic cable's first weekly run of ex-Starz Season 4: Torchwood: Miracle Day (Saturday 9 p.m.), with Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose and Mekhi Phifer. No one on Earth can die anymore, which becomes tragic. "Torchwood" has nothing if not ambitious. (More at bbcamerica.com)

Orphan Black (BBC America encore starts Saturday at 10 p.m.) Speaking of ambition, here's its latest incarnation. Tatiana Maslany has become this year's overnight sensation starring as a street chick who stumbles into her unknown twin, just as twin is committing suicide. Assuming her identity as a police detective, street chick finds her more "settled" life is surprisingly complicated. And lethal.

The corkscrew plot of cops and cons gets thicker by the minute. And then Matt Frewer's mad scientist shows up. Soon, Maslany is learning way more than she'd like about suburban soccer moms, extralegal DNA twists and Eurotrash assassins. She's got a great sidekick in her chatty gay artist foster brother and enough mystery/action to make Season 2 one of 2014's most anticipated TV events. (More at bbcamerica.com)

Community (Comedy Central marathon, Sunday 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) This eccentric ensemble comedy is heading into its fifth NBC season. But its trope- tripping antics of mismatched community college students have so far crawled under the mainstream radar.

Now everybody can catch up. Comedy Central launches the show's off-network run with Sunday's 5 1/2-hour stackup of essential episodes featuring Joel McHale, Ken Jeong and Chevy Chase. The regular run kicks off next Friday, Sept. 20, 9-11 p.m., with Season 1's first four episodes. (More at comedycentral.com/community)

The Honeymooners (WPIX/11, returns Saturday and Sunday at 11 and 11:30 p.m.) Not everyone today may be acquainted with this once-perennial comedy classic. Some folks wouldn't know Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Audrey Meadows from "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place." Ch. 11's restart helps clue in the uninitiated to hummanah-hummanah-hummanah, "Hello, ball," bang-zoom-to-the-moon and other touchstones of TV's 1950s "golden age." Har-dee-har-har!